Windows 8 app sideloading has been largely at a standstill since Microsoft first outlined its strategy for allowing business users to install line-of-business apps without publishing through the Windows Store.
Small- and mid-size developers have found Microsoft's sideloading requirements particularly onerous. Licensing requirements are prohibitive, as are costs, as has been well documented by Magenic Chief Technology Officer Rockford Lhotka and a handful of others.
It looks like some inside Microsoft are tired of the lack of movement on the sideloading front, too.
I stumbled onto a Microsoft blog called "Lighthouse." A January 27 post on that blog outlines a new proof-of-concept project aimed at removing some of the current Windows 8 sideloading barriers.
The Lighthouse developers are from Microsoft's Global Partner Services team and Developer Platform Evangelist team in China. They published the source code for the project to Microsoft's Codeplex code repository. The project's codename is BootyBay. Booty Bay is a pirate city in World of Warcraft (I discover after a little Web searching, plus some help from @ShawnWildermuth) -- and, according to the Lighthouse blog post "a great place to store your treasures."
The BootyBay developers didn't mince words in describing the problems developers are encountering with Windows 8 sideloading. From their blog post:
"Microsoft’s only solution for side-loading app management for enterprise is System Center/Intune. The System Center is too expensive and complex, and Intune is still not available to many regions yet especially China Mainland. Today, with the growth of the win8 device selling to enterprises, there are many partners and customers are looking for a light-weighted, easy-to-deploy solution for app management purpose, especially for Line-Of-Business commercial apps. Although we have Windows Runtime APIs to do so, there is no complete solution available internally or externally to meet the requirement. That’s why we are working on the POC (proof of concept) development."
The BootyBay proof of concept is a private Windows Store solution that includes a Windows Store app as the "private store," a desktop app which is the "Store Agent," and an ASP.Net MVC app that acts as the "Store Server." The target audience for BootyBay is independent software vendors who are developing side-loadable apps for business customers who don't necessarily have System Center, Windows Intune "or even 'domain,'" according to the post.
The BootyBay console agent, available for download, is marked as an alpha. The code is under a Ms-PL (Microsoft Public License). There's a lengthy still-to-do list for the project, but it's at least a start.
I've checked in with the Windows Enterprise team to see whether there's anything new they can share about updates or changes to Microsoft's sideloading requirements and policies that might get SMBs interested in building some Windows 8 line-of-business apps that they can publish to the Store. No word back yet.
Here's hoping there will be an update at Build 2014 this year about Microsoft's plans to support developers interested in building sideloadable business apps.....
Update: Speaking of the aformentioned Rocky Lhotka, check out the Magenic OrgPortal (on GitHub), which is a "pre-alpha" portal designed to help users find and install WinRT business apps via sideloading. The OrgPortal includes a WinRT client app, an ASP.Net service and a Windows Desktop system-try app that performs the actual install via PowerShell.
Update No. 2 (January 29): It looks like Microsoft pulled the Lighthouse blog post and removed the BootyBay project from Codeplex.
Microsoft reiterated its current stance regarding sideloading via this statement from a spokesperson:
“Microsoft provides a variety of options for businesses to sideload LOB apps on devices running Windows 8 and Windows 8.1, including:
• Company Portal apps via Windows Intune or System Center Configuration Manager, which allow businesses a way to let employees or users easily install line-of-business apps
• Portals through third-party solutions (like Citrix, MobileIron, and AirWatch) based on the new MDM capabilities included in Windows 8.1 and Windows RT 8.1
• Built-in PowerShell commands for performing installations
Per the blog post you found, Codeplex projects also have used APIs available to perform the same tasks, an option for companies who want to roll out their own app delivery method or MDM provider.”
For now, there is no further official word as to whether there's something new/more coming around sideloading licensing/pricing options for smaller developers in the next few months.